As with any family addition, there is a big reason to celebrate. If your friend or family member is adding a child to their family, whether it be through adoption or biology, that child should be honored, cherished, and welcomed with open arms. Many of us have attended a multitude of baby showers, and are all too familiar with the baby games, the cute snacks, and the adorable onesies. But, how can you support your friends who adopt a child? What do you do if that child isn’t an infant? How can you celebrate that child with them?
1. Throw them a shower.
Throw them a shower. Whether a baby, a toddler, or an older child, new parents will need many items to make sure they are prepared for the child they are bringing home. If they know when they will be bringing their child home, hosting a shower beforehand can be really helpful; this gives them plenty of time to set things up before they bring home the new member of their family. But, if the date is unknown, hosting a shower after the child is already home is a great way to celebrate. If the child is an infant, hosting a baby shower with the baby of honor is a wonderful way to make the day even more special. If it is an older child, the shower may be better if hosted virtually (especially if the family is cocooning). The gifts they will receive will be extremely helpful as they prepare their home for their new child, and the celebratory congratulations can be encouraging to new parents.
2. Bring them meals and set up a meal train.
Whether you bring home a child via adoption or biologically, meals are often the first thing parents are in need of. Who has time to take care of themselves when they have a sweet, but extremely needy, new family member? Making sure the parents are well-fed is a wonderful way to serve them during this new vulnerable time. If their child is older, making sure they have food available to them as well could be extremely helpful. Setting up a meal train is a great way to include a variety of loved ones in serving the new parents in their time of need, and can be the perfect way to extend the service to last a few weeks. Food can be dropped off on the porch so that cocooning isn’t interrupted. Using meal train websites also allow people to purchase restaurant gift cards for the new parents if they aren’t able to cook a meal. Helping to meet this basic need is a great way to provide comfort and show your love for the new parents without making the schedule more difficult for them.
3. Schedule chores around doctor appointments/times out of the house.
Many adoptive families will do some version of cocooning once they bring their child home. So, respecting the space needed to do that effectively, finding out the new family’s schedule and when they will be out of the home can be a great way to support them. Once you know when they will be gone, you can schedule to come into their house and do simple chores like the dishes, the laundry, or vacuuming. This helps them in ways that they may not be able to do by themselves without disrupting the needs of the new child. For us, when my son came home, he wasn’t able to be around a powered-on vacuum without being triggered into harmful behavior. Those who vacuumed while we were out of the house at doctor appointments really helped lessen the load on me while helping my son not experience trauma-related responses.
4. Offer to take family pictures.
Those early days of adoption are so difficult, and the beauty of what is happening to your family can easily be overshadowed. Offering to take family pictures for a new adoptive family can be a really sweet way to give them wonderful, early memories. Nice family photos may not be in a new adoptive family’s budget, and it may not be something they have thought to prioritize amongst all the newness of family life. This can be a wonderful time for them to connect and slow down while you are able to offer a beautiful gift to them.
5. Check in weekly.
Don’t be afraid to send a text, an email, or give a call. If they can’t answer, or are too overwhelmed to answer, they won’t. And it would be appreciated if you let them know that no answer was expected. Just knowing that someone was there, ready to listen to anything and everything they had to share may be enough to make them feel encouraged and loved. Not feeling forgotten while everyone is in the trenches of the post-adoption experience can be really important, especially as some parents struggle to battle post-adoption depression, sleep deprivation, and/or secondary trauma. Recognizing someone while they’re struggling may just be the lifeline they need.
6. Once cocooning is over, offer respite care.
Respite can be difficult to find, especially if you are a parent of a child with a disability. Whether that means finding someone capable of caring for your child’s specific medical needs, or finding someone willing to manage your child’s emotional and behavioral needs, those special respite caregivers can be far and few between. Grandparents often step into this role, but if they aren’t available (or maybe need respite time themselves), an outside support person could be the perfect fit. If you are willing to learn, you can absolutely care for a child for a few hours. This may be just what your friends need to rejuvenate them. This may very well be the best gift you can offer. Respite care may be unpaid, or underpaid, underrecognized, or go unnoticed, but I promise you, you are making a huge difference.
Loving on a new family experiencing their adoption journey is a great way to minister to them and show them love as they are growing and caring for a little one who has experienced much loss. You can help fill the gap they need as they give everything they have to their child—you have the ability to help fill their cups as they quickly empty them. Meeting people where they are is one of the most important things we can do as friends, neighbors, and family.